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What should you do if you are accused of copyright infringement?

If a company suspects that you or your California business is guilty of copyright infringement, the entity or one of its representatives will send you a letter or email or otherwise notify you via telephone that you are in violation of its copyright. The claim may relate to an article published on your website or to a photo you used in your blog. Typically, the notification will inform you that if you do not take steps to remedy the situation (remedy usually means pull down the copyrighted content or pay a fee), the owner of the copyright will file a court action against you. Upon receipt of this notification, you may panic, but do not — instead, take the time to understand the claim and determine the best course of action based on your organization’s needs and circumstances.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the first thing you should do upon receiving a demand letter is determine the validity of the claim. Review the letter for information regarding the copyrighted materials. Are the materials the letter describes material you are actually using? Are you using the materials in the manner which the letter suggests? If so, are the materials available via a public domain, or did you license them?

If the materials require permission to use, did you obtain permission? If yes, scroll through your records to find notice of permission in writing. Review the terms of use to make sure you did not violate them in any way. For instance, though the company may have granted you permission to use the material for six months and you use for 12 months, then you may be in violation. Or maybe the license state only six users can access the contents but you made the content available to your whole company – this may also be an infringement.

If it appears you are guilty of copyright infringement, you may be able to turn to the fair use defense. Per Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act, you may use copyright-protected work for parody, commentary, news reporting, education and research. In general, the courts will not consider commercial use of a copyrighted work as fair use.

The content shared in this article is for your informational purposes only. It should not be used as legal advice.